I decided on a mint julep. It’s the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, which kicks off the summer in Louisville Kentucky where the derby takes place. Kentucky is best known for two things: its horses and its world-class bourbon. There is no better place or event that combines these two icons than the Kentucky Derby, called “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” The mint julep became the official drink of the Kentucky Derby in 1938, keeping wide-brimmed and well-heeled track-goers loose-limbed and happy ever since.
The mint julep is a wonderfully refreshing summer drink and simple to make, so long as you have the ingredients: bourbon, sugar, ice, and fresh mint.
Friend Merridy just happened to be about to harvest her mint from the garden and I had a bottle of Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon. Buffalo Trace Bourbon is a great sipping bourbon: 90 proof well-rounded bourbon with initial aroma containing elements of spice, sautéed butter and old leather gloves; sweet and almost fruity, with oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey tar and beeswax, ending with a spirited and feisty finish. Like I said, a good sipping bourbon.
I was about to make the simple syrup but found a recipe that would adapt this drink to Canada: maple syrup! Cookie + Kate offer this unique twist on the classic recipe for mint julep that uses Canadian maple syrup as a wonderful substitute to simple syrup. Says Kate: “Bourbon and maple syrup are a flavor pairing made in heaven, and the maple syrup adds another subtle layer of flavor.”
• 10 fresh mint leaves
• 2 oz bourbon
• 2 teaspoons maple syrup
• crushed ice
Here are the steps:
1. Muddle some mint leaves in a sturdy glass with a spoon (or with a mortar and pestle) until the leaves are dark, fragrant and broken down, about 30 seconds (muddling helps release essential oils and juices into the bourbon and sugar to intensify the mint flavour and aroma)
2. Add the maple syrup and the bourbon to the muddled mint (in the mortar or the glass, depending on where you muddled) and transfer to a glass
3. Top off with crushed ice and a sprig of mint (Kate advises that you “clap the sprig of mint before garnishing” because clapping the sprig once between your hands releases a lot of the natural oils in the mind, making it more fragrant)
4. Settle outside on the patio and enjoy the first days of Autumn with a view of the fall colours.
Nina Munteanu is a Canadian ecologist / limnologist and novelist. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Nina’s bilingual “La natura dell’acqua / The Way of Water” was published by Mincione Edizioni in Rome. Her non-fiction book “Water Is…” was selected by Margaret Atwood in the New York Times ‘Year in Reading’ and was chosen as the 2017 Summer Read by Water Canada. Her novel “A Diary in the Age of Water” was released by Inanna Publications in 2020. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.